What Is Sirloin Steak? Complete Foodie’s Guide
Sirloin steak is a familiar cut of beef that almost everyone has heard of and probably eaten in some of their favorite dishes, even if they weren’t entirely aware of it! This popular cut is available in several forms, a staple in steakhouses as much as in home-cooked meals. But aside from seeing it on menus and in meat sections, few discerning diners may know what sirloin steak really is. What cuts are considered “sirloin?” And what sorts of culinary magic can you create with sirloin steak, whether you’re experimenting with a family recipe or learning new tricks in cooking classes in D.C., cooking classes in Denver or cooking classes near you?
To help you determine the best sirloin steak cuts for the meal you have in mind, we’ve gathered some helpful facts to get you in the know about this popular cut and its distinct varieties. From top sirloin steaks to buttery tenderloin, this handy run-down will identify which type of sirloin steak works best for your needs.
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What Is Sirloin?
In the U.S., sirloin steak is a cut that comes from the back of the cow, in the area between the ribs and the hips. The area is slightly different in Australia, Britain and South Africa, where butchers take sirloin steak from the middle top of the cow instead. The word “sirloin” is derived from the archaic French word surloigne, which translates to “above the loin.” Sirloin steak is usually a thicker cut of meat with a tender yet chewy texture and a quintessentially beefy flavor. Depending on the region of the cut, sirloin can be relatively tough or delightfully tender, all of which will dictate your preparation method.
Sirloin is generally an affordable cut, though cost varies depending on the variety. Bottom cuts are the most economical form of sirloin, providing a fair quantity of meat for the price, while delicate tenderloin can be the priciest cut in the meat section. As the diversity of cuts and prices indicates, you have a range of options when it comes to choosing the sirloin steak that suits you best. A special occasion may call for tenderloin, nightly dinners might make better use of a bottom butt sirloin, and a cookout could be the perfect moment for top sirloin to hit the grill.
Varieties of Sirloin
Top Sirloin Butt
Top sirloin butt, better known as just top sirloin, is a highly marbled cut taken from the higher region of the cow, closer to the top near the spine. Top sirloin steak is one of the most popular cuts in restaurants, though home cooks may find the meat can be a bit tough and may need to incorporate a marinade to make it more tender. Whether seared in a frying pan or grilled over an open flame, top sirloin butt is a hearty cut that satisfies steak fans looking for a straightforward steak experience.
Consider top sirloin as the uncomplicated workman steak, perfect for backyard barbecues and for slicing up in stir-fry and kebabs. You can also experiment with marinades and sauces to add exciting flavor to a top sirloin. It’s a flexible cut that takes kindly to your culinary imagination.
The coulotte steak is one of the three muscles that comprise the top sirloin butt. Also know as a top sirloin cap in the U.S., rump cap in the U.K. or picanha in Brazil, the coulotte steak is a lesser-known variety of sirloin that is nonethless one of the best cuts of steak you'll find on a beef lover's table.
There isn't much intramuscular marbling in this sirloin variety, but the cut has a layer of fat on it (a fat cap) that, if not cut off, keeps the steak especially flavorful and tender while cooking — preferably pan-searing or grilling for optimal flavor.
Bottom Sirloin Butt
Bottom sirloin butt is from the lower region of the cow and closer to the leg, which tends to make it a tougher cut of meat. Bottom sirloin is often used for roasts and stews, since this longer cooking method is great for breaking down the tissue and turning the meat tender. Being a slightly larger cut, a bottom sirloin offers a generous amount of meat at a lower price that can be a delicious addition to your dinner table when cooked properly. Bottom sirloin also includes tri-tip steaks, which can be treated like grilling steaks — precisely what we at Cozymeal would do with the beautiful tri-tip steaks seen below.
Philly steak sandwiches, Asian sesame ginger steak and Indian steak with fiery spices make great use of bottom sirloin. If you’re feeding a crowd or making dinners to freeze for future use, bottom sirloin butt will serve you well. With a bit of tender loving care, a fair-sized bottom round cut will transform into a warming roast or a hearty stew to satisfy the masses.
With tenderloin, the meat comes from the sides of the cow’s spine, a region that ensures the most tender sirloin steak possible. Filet mignon is a form of tenderloin, which helps explain its buttery, melt-in-your-mouth softness. The tenderness of the meat makes it a touchy cut to cook, requiring careful attention to retain its smooth texture. Overcooking can ruin its coveted delicacy and render it tough and dry. For best results, keep your tenderloin on the rare or medium-rare side of the spectrum.
Tenderloin steaks may be the gold standard of steak cuts. Very little prep work is needed to make them into the hero of a special meal. Careful cooking will ensure that you keep the tender texture, which is what makes tenderloin such a coveted sirloin cut.
Flavor and Texture of Beef Sirloin
Though the flavor and texture of beef sirloin vary depending on the cut, the underlying taste of sirloin is what most people recall when they think of a classic steak experience. From the elegant tenderloin to the sturdier bottom sirloin butt, there’s a section in the sirloin selection you can use in just about every home dining occasion that calls for beef in its purest form.
Tenderloin comes from the top of the cow, where muscle use is less stringent, which keeps the meat nice and tender, as the name implies! Top sirloin butt is from the highest part of the leg muscle, a slightly more engaged part of the animal with denser fibers. The butt sirloin steak is taken from the bottom of the loin, a section that becomes firmer with use and results in a tougher cut. The leanness of all sirloin selections imbues the meat with a less fatty, somewhat game-like flavor that’s earthy and delicious and lends well to marinades and sauces.
Where to Buy Beef Sirloin
Home chefs can create incredible meals with beef sirloin as the star of the menu. Whether you have recipes in mind or you’re in the market for an online cooking class to get you headed in the right direction, you can pick up sirloin cuts at your local grocer or butcher shop. Sirloin steak is priced by the pound, though the cuts may vary in size and shape, especially between top, bottom and tenderloin varieties. You’ll find tenderloin at the top of the pricing scale, while top sirloin sits somewhat lower, and bottom sirloin is the most budget-friendly cut of all sirloin steaks.
While prepackaged beef sirloin pieces can be found in the refrigerated meat section and are perfectly wonderful, you can opt for fresher cuts by requesting them from your butcher. Depending on what you’re cooking and how particular you are about the freshness of your meat, you can anticipate the arrival of new cuts by asking your butcher or meat manager about the schedule for their incoming stock. If you won’t be using your sirloin steak relatively soon after purchasing, be sure to store your specific cuts in the freezer properly for continued freshness.
Highly versatile and with a range of price options, sirloin steak is an essential cut for steak lovers to incorporate into their home dining rotation. You can easily plan several meals that utilize sirloin steak in different ways to keep things interesting. By keeping a few sirloin steaks in the freezer, you’ll be ready for an impromptu barbecue or on-the-fly dinner menu that’s sure to dazzle your guests.
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